What Is Kente?
Kente is a ceremonial cloth hand-woven on a horizontal treadle loom, kente comes in strips measuring about 4 inches wide and sown together into larger pieces of cloth. It comes in variety of colours and different designs.
Kente Royal Cloth are very important for its rich colours and meaningful designs. Infact the premisence of the Asante Monarchy is interfered with the Kente cloth. The Kente weaver gives each piece of cloth philosophical, historical and divine name.
The origin of Kente cloth is explained partly with a legend and partly with historical account, coming from two important towns in Asante Region of Ghana, namely Bonwire and Adawomase.
On the part of Bonwire, it is popularly known that a man name Otaa Kraban and his friend Kraku Amoagya from Bonwire learnt the art of weaving by observing a spider weaving its web in the year 1650. Taking the cue from the spider’s web they wove a strip of raffia fabric and later improved upon the skills. They reported their discovery to their chief who in turn reported to the Asantehene. The Asantehene adopted the royal arts as precious and prestige cloth, and became the custodian of Asante Kente.
On the part of Adawomase’s historical art of weaving, it traces it source from the north Ouagadougou (now Burkina Faso) with the help of two citizens from Adawomase, namely Nana Sarkodie and Nana Amankwa. They discovered this brand of weaving technique on their usual trade mission to the north of Ouagadougou around the year 1750.
Nana Sarkodie being a good trader and a prince, decided to go back to Ouagadougou with his friend Nana Amankwa. They stayed there as long as they could and learnt the art of weaving. After staying there for so many years they returned to Adawomase with the discovery which they brought with them a piece of woven cloth which they named it “Fufutoma” the white cloth. As a result of this valuable achievement by the two sons of Adawomase, a special stool Fufutoma was created by Asantehene to signify the origin of Fufutoma designs. All occupants of the stool have special duties to perform at the Asantehene’s palace.
The Use Of Kente And Its Social Significance
Kente is more than a clothing item, it is a visual representation of history philosophy, ethics, oral literature religious beliefs and political thought.
According to tradition kente is reserved for special occasion, it is not meant to be used for common place or daily activities or an ordinary wear. It can also be used as special gift item or clothing item used for rites of passage such a child naming, puberty rites invitations, graduations, marriage ceremony, soul washing, burial and ancestral remembrance ceremonies. Kente is used not only for its beauty but also for its symbolic significance. Each of the cloth has a name and a meaning, names and meanings are derived from historical events, individual achievements, proverbs, philosophical concepts, oral literature, moral values, social code of conduct, human behaviour, and certain attributes of plant and animals life.
Kente has achieved a tremendous international recognition and has become one of the tangible manifestations of an ever-growing sense of Pan Africanizm. Kente is more widely recognized as one of the shinning strands which make up the colourful cultural fabric of our global village.
Materials And Techniques Of Weaving
Kente weaving apparatus are considered scared and are therefore according a great deal of respect.
They are normally hand-made by the weavers or by specialist who know much about the apparatus. Yarns are used for weaving and they comes in different colours. In the olden years yarns were either spun locally or cotton and silk imported from Asia and Europe. Today there are so many factories which produce cotton and silk for this industry.
Weaving is done in strips about 4 inches wide. Several strips are carefully arranged in accordance with the name of the cloth and sown together to obtain the size. On the average a man size cloth measures 24 strips (ie makes it 8 feet wide and 12 feet long)
Men usually wear one large piece. Women also wear three pieces of various sizes ranging from 5-12 strips (20-28 inches wide, an average of 6ft long). Quality weaving is taken into consideration in determining the overall quality of the cloth. Cloths with more tightly woven motifs and more weft- face patterns are of higher quality than those with many areas of plain weaves.
All Credits Go to Manhyia Palace